The Week in Spain 2nd - 8th Feb 2015
The title race got a lot more interesting as Atletico Madrid thrashed league leaders Real 4-0 in the capital's clasico on Saturday.
Diego Simeone's side won comprehensively, as the 'BBC' (Bale, Benzema & Cristiano) failed to register a single shot on target.
Barcelona tightened the screw with a vintage display at the San Mames the following night, running out 5-2 winners to shorten Real's lead to a point. Atletico in third trail Real by four points.
Fatigue seemed to have got the better of Real, whose derby defeat came three days after a 2-1 win over Sevilla, where Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez succumbed to injury.
Ramos is out for three weeks with a torn hamstring but James' broken toe will see the Colombian skip the key clash with Barça on the 22nd of March as well as the Round of 16 and probable Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Champions League.
So Real are once more 'in crisis' according to the press, emboldened by Carlo Ancelotti throwing them the biscuit that this was his worst defeat as a manager.
Normal service should be resumed this weekend at home to Deportivo La Coruna, but their European tie away to Schalke on the 18th is the real test. Losing the versatile James is a blow, but a knight in shining armour in the form of Norwegian prodigy Martin Odegaard might get an unexpected chance to impress.
* Cristiano Ronaldo turned 30, though his birthday bash had the unfortunate timing of a few hours after the debacle at the Manzanares. After showing a lack of spirit on the field, he and his well-munerated colleagues had no trouble letting off steam at the party, which drew predictably mixed reactions from the Real faithful
* Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has a date in court next week to explain irregularities in his club's tax returns, specifically concerning the €57 million swoop for Neymar last summer.
Bartomeu implied Real fans were behind the probe, reminding the press that the Brazilian had picked the Camp Nou ahead of a bigger paycheck in Madrid.
If Bartomeu had anything to confess, he had Pope Francis for company on Friday as he visited the Vatican to discuss educational projects.
* Days after it emerged that Real's ground could be renamed the Abu Dhabi Bernabeu after redevelopment, Barca sponsors Qatar Airways hinted they might do the same to the Camp Nou. Only last week the club said the Gulf nation's "social issues" were affecting renewal deals, but FCB are also aiming to increase their annual agreement from €30 to €50 million.
* Football beat art last year as the Camp Nou stadium tour was Catalonia's most-visited museum with 1.5 million visitors. The Dali Museum in Figueres came second and Barcelona's Picasso Museum third.
* The Spanish Football Institute of Research, History and Statistics published its survey on the greatest coaches who have plied their trade in the country.
Argentine Helenio Herrera, best-known for forging 'Il Grande Inter' in Serie A, was rated the best manager of all time in Spain, for his spell in charge of five clubs between 1948 and 1960, bagging two titles for both Atletico and Barcelona.
Miguel Munoz, who won nine titles and two European Cups for Real in the '60s, came second ahead of the little-known Englishman Fred Pentland, who coached Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Racing Santander and Real Oviedo in the late 1920 and '30s.
Pentland (1883-1962) was born in Wolverhampton and played for Blackpool, Blackburn, Middlesbrough, QPR and Stoke, and five times for England.
As coach of Atheltic Bilbao, he won two titles and five Copa del Reys and gave the Basques a 12-1 win over Barcelona in 1931, the Blaugrana's record reverse.
Pentland coached Spain to a 4-3 win over England in 1929 which was the first overseas defeat for his homeland and guided France to an Olympic semi-final in 1920. Six years earlier he travelled to Berlin expecting to be named their Olympic coach, only to find himself interned for the duration of World War One in a prison camp, where he carried on his football, organising a flourishing league.
Pep Guardiola came 9th in the list, Johan Cruyff 13th and Jose Mourinho 14th, although Guardiola and Mourinho lead the statistics in terms of matches won (76%). Luis Aragones is the longest-serving coach with 753 games over 25 seasons.
(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile